Philip Francis Thomas (1810-1890)

Philip Francis Thomas (1810-1890)

Philip Thomas was born the son of a prominent physician in Talbot County, Maryland on September 12, 1810. He attended his home academy in Easton and then went on to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, entering with the class of 1830. He attended during two of the most chaotic years in the history of the College concerning student discipline. Thomas was involved with the November 24, 1828 incident in which the college janitor was ejected from his apartments in the dead of night and damage was caused to the rooms. In December, Thomas and several others were suspended for a month when the faculty discovered their role in this incident. Thomas served his suspension but then was dismissed for refusing to sign the pledge of good behavior that the faculty was requiring of students, after a late January "riot" caused by the mandatory attendance of daily chapel resulted in the suspension of the entire student body. He returned to Maryland and took to studying the law privately. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1831.

Thomas entered politics as a Democrat, but he ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature in 1834 and 1836 since his environs were strongly pro-Whig. He was elected, however, to the United States Congress in 1838 and served until 1840 when he declined re-nomination. He returned to the state house in 1843 and four years later secured the Democratic nomination for governor and was subsequently elected, serving until 1851. After this he served in a variety of posts in Maryland, including the collector of the port of Baltimore, until he was named first as United States Commissioner of Patents and then in December 1860 as James Buchanan's Secretary of the Treasury. He remained in this post for only a matter of weeks and resigned with other southern members of the Cabinet as the hostilities between North and South escalated. His son enlisted in the Confederate Army.

By 1863, he was again in the Maryland House and became a United States senator in 1867. He was, however, barred by the Senate as a person "who had given aid and comfort" to the Confederate cause. He was accepted as a United States representative on his election in 1874, serving a single term before returning to the Maryland House. He never achieved the seat in the Senate he desired and returned to his law practice in Easton.

He married Sarah Maria Kerr in 1835 and then, when widowed in 1870, married Clintonia (Wright) May, the daughter of Maryland Governor and U.S. Senator Robert Wright. In all, he had thirteen children, though only three daughters survived him. On October 2, 1890, Philip Francis Thomas died in Baltimore and was buried in Easton. He was eighty years old.

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Dickinson College Archives
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